Challenging the stereotypes of cultural profiling - The culture of the beach

The culture of the beach…..

There are many ways to consider culture and how it impacts on both individuals and groups, including students.  Much research has been undertaken in how culture is formed and how it impacts on the way people behave, whether that be students in class or undertaking assessments.  Many of the generalisations that fall out of this research about populations and cultures are caveated with the impact of personal circumstances on the individual.  Everyone is the same but everyone is different?  How can we understand this in a simplistic manner?  I think of it as “The culture of the beach”………and it is based on proximity.

Most of the rocks, pebbles and sand on a beach started out as one thing; large quartz deposits. Weathering processes and their surroundings over time such as wind, rain and the freezing/thawing cycles broke down these rocks into ever smaller fragments.  Their present environment, including the oceans that daily disperse and then regroup them, shapes their form.  Additionally, their interactions with others around them profile their nature.  As you stand and view the sandy beach beneath your feet all the individual grains of sand appear the same; tiny and yellow.  Your proximity to them makes them appear uniform.  They are not.  Under a microscope, as you focus in, they become very different in shape, colour and relative size. If you created a sieve that had uniform holes, of an average grain size, large amounts of the sandy population would not fit through, no matter how much you wanted them to. 

Now consider the pebbled beach. From your position standing there with the grinding stones beneath your feet, you can see the differences.  Differences in shape, colour and size.  Now stand on the cliff, a different proximity, and view their ruddy uniformity.  They appear all the same, like the grains of sand on the beach, indistinguishable from one another. 

Now take a balloon ride over the beachy area and all of the rocks, so different when you were clambering on them, appear similar. Indistinguishable from one another, black and uniform.  Your proximity creates uniformity.  Stand in a football crowd and everyone around you is different, watch on the TV and individuals start to blend together, fly above and even the colourful club shirts are indistinguishable in the crowd.

So ask yourself, “do you want to see difference or are you content to deal in uniformity?”

By making informed generalisations we can start on a journey on understanding students. However, only by visiting, working closely with and listening to people from other cultures can we truly start to understand similarity and difference.

In this ever increasingly globalised world we all need to work and live successfully with different cultures. My advice; choose the right proximity with which to view others and hopefully they will do the same for you!